How to Wear Boat Shoes for Men – A to Z Guide!

Boat shoes, also known as topsiders, are fashionable yet functional shoes that are rather popular. These shoes were invented in 1935 by Paul Sperry, who was out to create a pair of shoes that could provide adequate traction on the slippery decks of ships and boats.

He was inspired in his quest by his dog Prince, who seemed to fair quite well even on slippery surfaces. It is, therefore, no surprise that the shoes were initially mostly worn by boaters and sailors. Today, however, boat shoes are a common sight worn by men from all walks of life. The shoes greatly resemble moccasins.

They are made of leather or canvas top on which there is a simple crisscrossing design. The lace then loops all around the shoe, creating a simple yet elegant design. The sole of the shoe is made of rubber which provides great traction. Here is how to wear boat shoes men:

How to Choose Boat Shoes

When it comes to choosing a pair of boat shoes, there are a few major factors that you must consider. These include the fit, color, material, brand, and price. Here is what you need to know about each factor:



It is important that you get the right size of shoe for your feet. Ideally, there should be at least an inch of spacing between the top of the shoe and your big toe when you stand. The shoe should, however, fit snuggly since it is bound to stretch out the more you wear it.

Ensure that the ball of your foot fits nicely into the shoe and that no space is left between your foot and the back of the shoe. If any such space is left, blisters are highly likely to fester when you wear the shoes.

To be certain that the shoe is the right fit, walk around a little. That way, you will not go wrong with your choice.


When it comes to boat shoes, there are virtually only two top materials to choose from: canvas and leather. The difference between them is that canvas is lightweight, while leather tends to be chunky.

However, you would be well advised to go with leather shoes since they are more durable and versatile. They can be easily worn with dressier outfits, which cannot be said of canvas shoes.

In particular, the Horween Chromexcel leather material is ideal since it is easy to break into the shoe owing to the amount of grease used to make it.


Some of the most reputable brands from which to buy boat shoes for men include Sperry, Quoddy, Eastland, Sebago, and Rancourt. In terms of price, it is best to keep in mind that boat shoes generally don’t last for more than a few years, so it is best to buy them with disposability in mind.


Boat shoes come in a wide range of colors, ranging from vibrant colors to neutral colors to nude colors to even black, brown, and navy blue. The best color, however, is brown for a number of reasons. For one, Brown is immensely versatile.

It can be worn with virtually every outfit. Secondly, brown is classic. Finally, brown is undoubtedly good-looking. You can also opt to buy navy blue shoes, although you really shouldn’t wear them with denim jeans.

Blue Boat shoes for men

When to Wear Boat Shoes

Boat shoes are meant to be worn in warmer weather, which essentially means summer and spring. You can wear them to the beach to protect your feet from the scorching heat of the sun, especially when you stand on piers.

You can also wear shoes when sailing or traveling. If your workplace accepts laid-back casual wear, then you can also sport a pair of boat shoes to the office. Boat shoes can also be worn on a date since they are truly stylish.

However, wearing boat shoes during the winter is a big no-no. Not only do you risk soaking your precious shoes with water, but they are also bound to get damaged rather fast. Additionally, boat shoes are not meant to be worn for fancy occasions. Suits and boat shoes also just don’t blend too well.

How to Wear Boat Shoes

Boat shoes should be worn together with casual outfits. Denim jeans, for example, match really well with boat shoes. You can also rock boat shoes with a pair of shorts.

If you want to draw attention to your shoes, say because of bright color, pattern, or print, and then wear shorts that are rather plain and tailored to fit.

You can also opt to wear boat shoes with brightly colored chinos. The only thing you have to keep in mind is that you should strike a perfect balance. If you wear vibrant colors, then let the shoes be in neutral colors.

How to Break – in Boat Shoes

Although boat shoes are generally comfortable, wearing them for the first time is far from pleasurable. This is why you need to cure the leather first. To do so, you will need to mix some sea salt with water.

Ideally, you should add a tablespoon of salt to a liter of water. You ought to choose a container that is big enough to submerge your shoes in fully. Then you should soak the shoes in saltwater for up to 24 hours.

Once the time is up, wear the shoes for a while. They tend to dry out rather quickly, so the wetness shouldn’t be too much of a bother. When you are wearing wet shoes, they conform to your feet’ shape and size, so wearing them in the future should be very easy.

Boat shoes for men

How to Care for Boat Shoes

Ideally, boat shoes shouldn’t be worn with socks. This often leads to the accumulation of nasty smells in the shoes. Fortunately, the odor can easily be taken care of by leaving tea bags, baby powder, or drying sheets in the shoes overnight.

If the shoe gets stained, then you should get rid of the stain using a dry brush. Brush in the same direction to avoid causing further damage to the shoe. You can also use a protective spray on the shoe but give it at least 24 hours to dry completely.

Don’t expose the shoes to too much sunlight, as it can destroy the leather. Too much water will also cause the shoes a lot of harm.

Wearing Boat Shoes with Socks

Boat shoes must never be worn with visible socks. If you are concerned about the sweat and odor, then wear small no-show socks that cannot be seen. Otherwise, simply refrain from wearing the shoes with socks, as it will ruin your whole look.

In Conclusion

Boat shoes can be an invaluable addition to your closet. As long as you follow the guidelines above on how to wear boat shoes, you will always look sharp and chic in them. With these tips, you can never go wrong with the classic shoes.

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Do you know other ways to wear boat shoes? If so, you are welcome to share your experience in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “How to Wear Boat Shoes for Men – A to Z Guide!”

  1. I absolutely love your site.
    How awesome you are to think of wearing Boat shoes visible socks. yea, because it makes one look odd. The tips are definitely something that you will always look sharp and chic and can never go wrong with the classic shoes

    Thanks for posting this!,. I’m going to look up for your next update.
    Thanks again, awesome job!

  2. I never knew those shoes were called boat shoes! These shoes seem quite interesting. It seems a bit ironic that shoes originally designed for use on boats would be so scared of water, but I suppose their function has changed since those days.

    These have a nice look and sound very comfortable as well. I think I will definitely give them a try next time I buy shoes.

    Great post.

    • I Renton,

      Don’t worry, we all learn new thing every day:) Yes, these are boat shoes and they are very comfortable to wear. You should try them.

      Thank you for the comment and wish you a fantastic day!

  3. Just a little bit about how to care for boat shoes is going to be so helpful! My son has boat shoes, and quite frankly he has VERY stinky feet, so his shoes smell. I never thought about dryer sheets or powder. Now I have a few different things I can try to keep his shoes smelling better!

    • Hi Matts,

      I am glad you found the article useful! Yes, these simple tricks really help with feet odors:)

      Thank you for the comment and wish you a wonderful day!


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